Big Chili Fest heats up a cold rainy day

From left: Alex Roan, Laura Beckman, and Bill Hart of The Black Dog took second place in the best professional chili competition. – Photo by Angelina Godbout

Updated Friday January 30

This past Saturday marked the the 29th annual Big Chili Contest, better known as Chilifest, at the Portuguese-American Club in Oak Bluffs. For almost three decades the popular 21-plus festival, hosted by MVY Radio, has spiced up the winter with a good time while bringing in thousands for the Red Stocking Fund, which provides food, clothing, and toys to Island children during the holiday season. This year approximately 1,700 people made their way to the event and sampled chili from 17 vendors that came as far as Worcester to compete.

About $27,000 was generated for The Red Stocking Fund of Martha’s Vineyard, according to Greg Orcutt, general manager of MVY Radio. In an email, Mr. Orcutt said, “This is an event that is supported by the P.A. Club, local and regional businesses, and individuals who give time and money to support the Red Stocking Fund of Martha’s Vineyard. The Chili Contest also offers an economic lift in January, with people from as far away as Connecticut and Maine coming to the Island and spending dollars with the SSA, local retailers, hotels, and restaurants.”

Hundreds of off-Island visitors descended on the Vineyard for the event, despite the wet conditions. The local taxi company Stagecoach Taxi reported that guests were being dropped off at the contest as early as 9:30 am. The early-morning boats were packed with visitors from Boston, Falmouth, and beyond. The rain didn’t stop the party; the line was almost at the door at noon — with still four more hours to enjoy the festivities.

Island restaurants and layman chili chefs prepared countless batches of their favorite recipes for a chance to win in one of several professional and amateur categories while contest attendees made the rounds tasting. Chili competitors included The Ritz (Oak Bluffs), The Black Dog (Vineyard Haven), Quicks Hole Tavern (Woods Hole), and Quahog Republic (Falmouth), among many others.

The costume clad attendees, in Mexican ponchos, sombreros, and festive masks, danced to the music of the Mariachi Mexico Lindo Band, and Taunton-based cover band the Baja Brothers.

The competition categories included “Is It Really Chili?,” “Farthest Traveled,” “Best Presentation,” “Steve Jordan Memorial Hottest Chili” (Mr. Jordan retired from the contest to judge after winning the category 18 straight years), “Best Professional,” and “Best Amateur” chili. MVY also awarded a first-time Spirit Award, which went to attendee “Mo Cheeks,” who donned several different costumes throughout the day, including denim cutoff shorts and a woman’s orange bathing suit.

The winners:

Best professional chili, third place: The Ritz.

Best professional chili, second place: The Black Dog.

Best professional chili, first place: Quahog Republic of Falmouth (by a “slim margin”).

Farthest traveled chili: Adam Sanders for his amateur chili from Worcester.

Best veggie chili: Quicks Hole Tavern of Woods Hole.

Best Presentation: Jim Pringle and Alan Northcott for their amateur chili, which used local Hopps Farm hops and ale in their recipe.

Is that really chili?:  New Moon Magick Enchanted Chocolates won for their chili chocolate.

Hottest chili: The Lookout Tavern.

Best amateur chili, third place: Edgartown Fire Department.

Best amateur chili, second place: Bob Costello and his official chili.

Best amateur chili, first place: Bill Donovan and Brian Lucier of Wild Willy’s Ass Kickin’ Chili.

Jenny Johnson of  NESN’s Dining Playbook also announced her personal favorites, which were awarded with cash prizes.

Third place, $200: The Lookout Tavern

Second place, $300: Bill Donovan and Brian Lucier of Wild Willy’s Ass Kickin’ Chili.

Third place, $500: Quahog Republic of Falmouth.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish played the event. Due to a scheduling change the band did not, after all, give a performance.